If there could be a knock made on the Clemson Tigers’ defense, since the arrival of defensive coordinator Brent Venables, it could be a tendency to get their calls in late—leaving the defense looking dazed and confused at times while the offense is running a play for big gains.
There have been many theories as to why this happens, with some coaches accusing Venables of attempting to steal signs.
From Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde:
“Exactly how they do it, and how much it helps, remains a bit mysterious. But within a sport that is steeped in paranoia—play sheets routinely covered coaches’ mouths, back before masks did—everyone raises their guard a little higher when playing Clemson, which declined to comment to SI for this story. Swinney’s team has the Atlantic Coast Conference preparing for more each week than just the Tigers’ talent, toughness and gameplan.
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“Clemson has that reputation,” said a staffer at another ACC school.
“Clemson is the best in the country at stealing signals,” said one ACC coach.
“They really utilize it on the defensive side of the ball,” added another coach in the league. “They are really good at it. One time we got in a formation that is 90% run, and they dropped eight (defenders in coverage). They knew it was a pass call. It was like, ‘Are they listening to our headsets?’ ”
Regardless of the reason, these issues of not getting lined up reared their ugly head in the Tigers blowout loss to Ohio State, a game that ended the Tigers’ season in the College Football Playoff.
But Venables saw something that was a bigger issue than the Tigers being out of position–he simply saw his defense get whipped.
"There were a few times we didn't get lined up fast enough, but I think more than anything else they were more physical and we didn't set the edge and we got knocked off the ball,” Venables said. “When our safeties started getting over-aggressive, they threw it over us. We didn't stop the run and did a poor job containing the quarterback. Guys trying to do too much. It was a bad night in every way. Every way."
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